Low Fact Reporting on Sweeteners
Is factual reporting on sweeteners no longer a possibility? A sampling of recent headlines raises that question. Here are a few:
How Sugar Substitutes Prevent Weight Loss
Which Is Worse: Artificial Sweeteners or Sugar?
Why Researchers Think Aspartame Is Making You Fat
Low Calorie Drinks Actually Boost Weight
The cause for these headlines was a paper published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. The paper included test tube data (n=3), live mouse GI tissue data (n=5), and data from live, whole mice (n=4). The study’s authors concluded that a metabolite of the sweetener aspartame might inhibit an enzyme in mice that reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome in mice.
No humans consumed any aspartame or gained any weight or had anything to do with this paper, except for writing it. So no, there’s no evidence that “low calorie drinks actually boost weight.”
The flip side of that question is a bit more controversial. Do low calorie drinks help people lose weight? Studies intended to address this question have yielded mixed results. A recent study of replacing diet beverages with water garnered a lot of press when the results showed more weight loss for women who switched to water than for women who kept drinking diet beverages. Alan Barclay, author of The Ultimate Guide to Sugar and Sweeteners, recommends putting this study into perspective:
This is one study of only 65 women in which a behavioral weight loss program was a significant factor. Its findings are not consistent with a systematic review of the evidence on low energy sweeteners, such as was recently published by Peter Rogers and colleagues.
Rogers et al concluded:
Overall, the balance of evidence indicates that use of LES [low energy sweeteners] in place of sugar, in children and adults, leads to reduced EI [energy intake] and BW [body weight], and possibly also when compared with water.
It’s worth remembering that these effects are not large. In most of these studies, the observed effect was only a couple of pounds. Dire stories about potential harms from low calorie sweeteners are unfounded. But likewise, these sweeteners don’t offer weight loss miracles.
They’re simply a reasonable alternative to sugar, especially in sweet beverages.
Click here for the systematic review by Rogers et al.
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November 29, 2016